Evidence of meeting #91 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was security.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Robert Graham  Administration and Personnel Officer, Parliamentary Protective Service
Superintendent Jane MacLatchy  Director, Parliamentary Protective Service
Michel Patrice  Deputy Clerk, Administration
Charles Robert  Clerk of the House of Commons
Stéphane Perrault  Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada
Michel Roussel  Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events and Innovation, Elections Canada

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Right. What you're doing then is that.... Is it based on distance, that you would say to someone, “You live here; you should go there”?

If I may, in my opinion, it's better to have divisions for certain towns where they find their hub of activity. This is going to sound really crass, but basically put it next to Walmart and it would work a lot better, quite frankly. It's as simple as that, sorry. Or a Giant Tiger, whatever you want to use. I find that is more efficient. Don't you feel the same way?

12:35 p.m.

Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

That's a valid point. There are two things. One is distance, and it's not the only factor. What we're introducing here in terms of distance is technology that enables a calculation of the travel distance, not as the crow flies, but driving distance. I know Mr. Reid had issues in his riding at the last election. This is the kind of technology that will help resolve that as well as the process of reversion that we're starting with polling places. However, we have a new policy that will be published soon and we've engaged the ACPP on that.

Proximity is one factor, but there are others. Familiarity is one. Convenience is another one. There are several other factors. In your example it may be that the location chosen is not the closest geographically to every median driving distance but it is in fact most convenient because of where people go.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Is that driven by the returning officer? Would they be the arbiter as to where it should be?

12:35 p.m.

Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

Correct. They will start this spring well in advance of the election. That's a new change that we're introducing. They will start identifying potential polling places based on all kinds of criteria, including accessibility. From that they will start working on the polling divisions. It's going to be an ongoing piece of work starting this spring.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Yes, I think that's a great idea because I think the returning officer in each of the ridings certainly should have the final say as to where these polls and divisions should be. No offence, but—

12:40 p.m.

Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

—looking at a map doesn't give you an indication of the dynamic of how people vote and where they vote, so on an so forth.

The rest I'm going to hand to Mr. Graham.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Sure I was going to go down the same line. In 2015 my largest poll was about the size of the Greater Toronto Area. So, I'm just curious, what is the distance that you are going to be looking for? What's the limit that you will ask an elector to go?

12:40 p.m.

Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

I'll ask Michel to speak to that point because he's responsible for that area.

12:40 p.m.

Michel Roussel Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events and Innovation, Elections Canada

In terms of the guidelines that will be provided to returning officers when they design the service areas, we expect that 95% of the addresses will be located in urban settings within 10 kilometres of their advance voting locations, and in rural areas within 30 kilometres of their advance voting locations. For the election day polling locations, we would expect the target of 95% of ordinary election day polling locations would be within five kilometres of electors' addresses in urban settings and 15 kilometres in rural areas. This is a guideline. Returning officers, as we said earlier, have the final say. The principle that we ask returning officers to apply is that of reasonable distance for electors to go vote in advance or on election day.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

One of the concerns we've had in the past, when we've discussed [inaudible], is accessibility requirements often cut out huge chunks of rural areas. Are we going to see more exemptions for that kind of thing to allow it?

12:40 p.m.

Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

It think it's important to keep in mind that we are legally bound to ensure, where ever possible, accessible polling locations. However, in many cases there are options and there are other considerations than accessibility for the polling locations. There is not a clear cut answer to your question, unfortunately.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I do have more questions but I think I'll save them for the in camera portion.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Oh, sorry, Marc.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Serré Liberal Nickel Belt, ON

Thank you. Obviously with regard to the polling locations, I just wanted to also ask about resources for cities and towns that have been amalgamated. For example, Greater Sudbury has been amalgamated since 2001, but still in 2015 there are five Main Streets and the addresses are still mixed up, the polling is still mixed up. Still to this day it's very frustrating to try to get to, I would say, the right individuals. I've talked to the DRO and mentioned that and it's still not resolved. There are other amalgamated cities across Canada, I'm assuming, and this has been happening since 2001. So something needs to be happening on that. That's greatly appreciated.

12:40 p.m.

Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events and Innovation, Elections Canada

Michel Roussel

Unfortunately, this is an issue we are aware of, particularly in northern Ontario. One of the advantages of taking an early look at the electoral maps is that returning officers will raise those issues with us and we should be able to find remedial solutions to those cases.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Thank you.

I noticed in your presentation you talked a little bit about cybersecurity. I would like to leave a little bit of time, as I know my colleague, Mr. Reid, does have a question about that.

On a related matter, when we talk about cybersecurity one of the things we're talking about is the potential for foreign influence in our elections through those kinds of channels. The other area that I think leaves a lot of room for foreign interference in our elections, is one that isn't talked about a lot currently but needs to be. I know that at the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs Mr. Côté, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, when he was before their committee, indicated their office had received a significant number of complaints about third parties for both the 2011 and 2015 elections and this has become such an issue that it may see some third parties so significantly involved in some ridings that it may result in unfair electoral outcomes. Further to that, he also stated that he thinks it's time for Parliament to re-examine the third-party regime to ensure a level playing field is maintained.

Do you agree with this? What are your thoughts on this?

12:40 p.m.

Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

Absolutely.

As you recall, there are two main problems for the current regime. One is the scope of regulated activities. Right now, the regime in the Canada Elections Act limits the expenses of third parties in terms of election advertising expenses only. That does not capture a range of activities such as get out the vote, canvassing, or other activities that may be campaigning in nature.

The first question is to what extent should we look at expanding the scope of the regime. The second question is in terms of revenue. Right now, only revenues obtained for the purpose of election advertising are regulated by these third parties. The act does not regulate the use of general revenue and through general revenue a lot of third parties have all kinds of funding coming to them for various reasons. To the extent that they can use their general revenue to fund their campaign activities, even currently regulated activities, then through that we can see some foreign money coming in. Both aspects need to be looked into. I know that this is something the committees can surely [Inaudible-Editor]would be the recommendations report. We provided some suggestions to the committee, which it has endorsed. I, of course, support those recommendations.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

The other issue, and certainly the commissioner had indicated previously that he was confirming this as well, is one of the challenges is that contributions that are received more than six months before an election campaign can't be looked at in that regard. Obviously, with a fixed election date that becomes something that's very easy for a third party to manage and say, look, make sure your contributions are in six and a half months before the election. That then allows, obviously, unlimited use of foreign funds for everything besides advertising.

What are your thoughts on that? Do you think that might actually have the ability to impact elections?

12:45 p.m.

Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

Absolutely.

I do agree that we need to remove that six-month limitation in the Canada Elections Act for the regulation of revenues to third parties. We've supported that and I personally support that.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Thank you.

I'll turn it over to Mr. Reid.

February 27th, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Thank you.

Thank you to our witnesses as well.

I have a question regarding cybersecurity, but before I do that, I just want to follow up on the comments from Mr. Graham and Mr. Simms regarding the issue of people having unreasonable driving distances, particularly to advance polls. I did indeed have a problem in the last election with one particular part of my constituency where people who live in a place called Port Elmsley had to drive 45 minutes in each direction, passing a number of other advance polling stations.

First of all, when we raised the issue, Elections Canada was very businesslike about correcting that situation. I'll mention that, first of all. Second, I think the solution you're proposing is exactly the right one, so thank you for that. Starting by working out driving distances is clearly the logical way of handling it.

With regard to the issue of the problem of finding accessible locations, which ultimately is the issue, my understanding is that Elections Canada is under a court order, effectively, to only allow certain locations. This has the unintended consequence of eliminating a lot of public buildings that are accessible—and I think it's in five different ways—meaning that they become frequently inaccessible to everybody, disabled and fully able together.

The only way to solve that over a court order is legislation. If we think it's enough of a problem, then we'd have to suggest a legislative proposal. We could all understand how that could be cast as being against the rights of disabled people, so you'd have to be very thoughtful about how to do it. There would have to be multi-partisan support for anything of that sort. I think that's a good understanding of the situation there.

Finally, there's a question I want to raise about cybersecurity. The issue that concerns me— should concern you is a better way of putting it—is this: during an election, the most effective way of causing disruption would be to cause people to inadvertently give up their right to vote by sending them to the wrong location, by announcing that they should go to this location or that location rather than the real location, that polling times had been changed, or something else like that.

It's a modern version of the old theme where you'd announce that so-and-so had withdrawn his or her candidacy, but it wasn't true. I think it would be given out by people purporting to be Elections Canada. It would be given out retail as opposed to wholesale, making it hard to trace these things. That would be the way that would be logical if you were a foreign power trying to disrupt an election and make it uncertain who had won. I think that's what you should be protecting against. How you do that I have no idea, but that's where the danger lies, frankly.

12:50 p.m.

Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

Stéphane Perrault

You raised a number of interesting and important points.

On the first one, I do want to remind the committee that there are recommendations we made regarding the expansion of transfer certificates for people with disabilities. If we have that, in that way we'll introduce some flexibility into the system to provide those with disabilities access to other polling locations.

On the point of sending people to the wrong place or at the wrong time, of course, that is at the heart of our mandate. Our concern there is making sure that Canadians know where to get the right information. One thing I have asked my team to work on for the next election is having a repository available online, on our website, of all of our public communications, our advertisements, and our social media. If somebody sees something that they're not quite sure comes from Elections Canada, they would be able to verify against our website whether, in fact, it is from Elections Canada or not. There would be a public record to check against. That's one administrative measure.

There are provisions that were introduced in 2014 in the act that prohibit and create an offence for impersonation. Of course, unfortunately, that's after the fact, and that's the role of the commissioner to enforce. Administratively, we do have a key role to play in making sure people have access to the right information, and if they're not sure, they can verify there.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you.

Mr. Christopherson.